BLOG 52: June, 1999—Have you ever written a letter to your father, or someone, with no intention of sharing it? I did, many moons ago, on Father’s Day, as I lived in my parent’s house in New Jersey, healing from physical and emotional pain.
“It’s strange celebrating Father’s Day with this silence between us,” I wrote. “Your silence, your temper, your not being there when you were really needed in these past few years has made me sad about this family and our relationship. All I’ve ever wanted is for us to learn how to show care and love to each other—to feel that we don’t have to compete against each other, but rather let family be a place where we all feel wanted … I know that you are scared to be vulnerable to show that you have needs and care, but I hope that, as we age, we can make less room for judgment, and more room for enjoying the time we have. I hope there can be years in which you and I, and all of us, can take a few chances and express ourselves as friends.”
This letter to my father never made it into his hands, but my wishes did come true before my father’s recent departure from this world. It was about five years ago that I had called him up, broken-hearted about the relationship I was in at the time, and how I had
learned to be in relationship. I asked him to help me break these old patterns of intimacy (or lack of intimacy) I had learned growing up. It was a bold move on my part, but I was so broken, unable to sleep, that I took a friend’s advice and reached out to my father, toward the origin of my pain.
“Maybe you can help me,” I had said to him in tears. Without needing to explain too much, my father surprisingly told me he understood, and that the way he and I related had been passed down from his grandfather to his mother to him and then to me (and my siblings). His next words were life-changing. My father said he regretted, to that day, not having had quality time with his mother before she died (later, I learned that they had had harsh words with each other during his last visit with her in Argentina). In his own subtle way, he let me know that he didn’t want this to happen with us.
The following spring, as my relationship with my then-boyfriend finally came to an end—and upon my request—my father and I shared a month together in his apartment in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where he visited a lot since retiring from Corporate America. That was about three years ago, and it became the first time I had quality one-on-one time with my father. We slowly opened our hearts to each other to create a relationship we had never had. It wasn’t easy, but during that time, I discovered my father—big-hearted, alive, and celebrating life with dinners and gatherings with childhood friends and family who were tremendously dear to him.
As our time together came to an end, after two days of my father driving me through the streets of his favorite city in the world, sharing his love, we sat across from each other over a meal. In an unprecedented manner, he told me how special I was and how much his friends had loved me as he did.
The following year, my father insisted we return to Buenos Aires together. I shared songs and poems with him and friends, letting my father know how precious this time was. He reflected back to me how I had finally come into my own after years of searching. That summer was when he also told me he had chronic leukemia (in addition to his Parkinsons and crippling pain)—a disease that would require undergoing months of chemotherapy in the U.S., followed by more treatments and surgery for melanoma, which he later had. Our visit together was one of his last to Argentina before his death.
This past month, when my family and I gathered to be with my ailing father, caring for him for multiple weeks around his hospital bed in my parent’s living room in Virginia, it seemed my letter and his wishes had been answered. The father my sisters and I had known growing up had become less afraid to share his heart, to reach out and finally have a loving relationship with us. Because of his desire to have a fuller relationship with his children than he had experienced or expressed with his mother, he was able to leave this world knowing that he had done something beautiful. On February 23, at 2:03, as my cousin, Domenica, and I held his hands, he left knowing that we had given each other a gift that had become an answer to my letter and our mutual prayer.
*My novel, Child of Duende: A Journey of the Spirit, is a story of coming healing and coming home. Check it out on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Child-Duende-Journey-Michelle-Adam/dp/099724710X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1474233011&sr=8-1&keywords=child+of+duende or at www.michelleadam.net